Danger as young kids watch TikTok more than TV


Young children are spending more time watching online videos on sites such as YouTube and TikTok than television, research reveals.

The finding for kids aged eight and under has experts worried they are missing out on the "incidental" learning that comes from watching educational programs.

That's because it's much harder for parents to monitor what kids watch on their own devices than what they watch on big family TV screens.

It comes as growing numbers of children as young as six have their own smartphones.

Data collected by Roy Morgan for its annual Understanding Young Australians survey also shows that 76 per cent of children aged 6-13 watched online videos this year, slightly up from 2018. Over the past two years, the average time they spent online each week increased by 76 minutes to 15 hours and 26 minutes.

The average weekly time youngsters spent in front of the TV decreased by 68 minutes to nine hours, 15 minutes.

Australian Council on Children and the Media president Elizabeth Handsley said as young children with their own devices could watch content unsupervised by their parents, the nature of that content "becomes all the more significant".

"We are concerned at any unlimited access by children to uncurated content," she said.

Prof Handsley said features such as autoplay - meaning once a selected online video is finished, another immediately starts playing - were also problematic.

"It is how (these) platforms keep us watching and it makes if very difficult for parents to get even a natural break in the viewing so they can get the child to do something else," she said.

Prof Handsley said parents needed more support to find good content.

The Roy Morgan research shows a third of children aged 6-13 now own a mobile phone.

And numbers of kids aged 6-8 with their own phone almost doubled in the past five years, from 3.9 per cent to 7.1 per cent.

 In the US, a sweeping survey by digital educator and advocacy group Common Sense Media found similar trends, with kids aged eight and under spending 39 minutes a day watching online videos.

Paediatric expert Jenny Radesky from the University of Michigan said the research showed kids were using the main YouTube site rather than a kids' version of it.

"(The content) lacks educational value and, in many cases, exposes young children to advertising, violence and other content that's inappropriate for their ages," she said.









Originally published as Danger as young kids watch TikTok more than TV